This year’s crop of 25 additions to the National Film Registry includes a wide variety of musicals, war movies, teen comedy, stoner comedy, animation, horror, Western, indie, experimental, early works starring minorities, a landmark 3D movie and a couple entries featuring Carmen Miranda. There are also two Holocaust documentaries among the bunch, they making up half of the titles representing nonfiction cinema. I wish there were more (are they waiting for eligibility of the third part before recognizing Paradise Lost?), we can also always look at these films as being selected by the Library of Congress because of their extra-textual elements, i.e. their nonfictional existence and importance. In addition to their being marked for preservation, they’re all also being noted for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”
But here are those four titles that are more technically documentary works, with descriptions and reasons for addition from the National Film Registry Board (via Variety):
13 Lakes (2004)
James Benning’s feature-length film can be seen as a series of moving landscape paintings with artistry and scope that might be compared to Claude Monet’s series of water-lily paintings. Embracing the concept of “landscape as a function of time,” Benning shot his film at 13 different American lakes in identical 10-minute takes. Each is a static composition: a balance of sky and water in each frame with only the very briefest suggestion of human existence. At each lake, Benning prepared a single shot, selected a single camera position and a specific moment.
This 13-minute short subject, marketed as an educational film, records a slice of life in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles prior to the rebellions of 1965. Filmmakers Trevor Greenwood, Robert Dickson and Alan Gorg were UCLA film students when they crafted a documentary from the perspective of Felicia Bragg, a high-school student of African-American and Hispanic descent. Her first-person narrative covers footage of her family, school and neighborhood, creating a time capsule that’s both historically and culturally significant.
Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport (2000)
Just prior to World War II, a rescue operation aided the youngest victims of Nazi terror when 10,000 Jewish and other children were sent from their homes and families to live with foster families and in group homes in Great Britain. This Oscar-winning film was directed by Mark Jonathan Harris, writer and director of another Oscar winner, The Long Way Home, and was produced by Deborah Oppenheimer, whose mother was among the children evacuated.
V-E +1 (1945)
The silent 16 mm footage that makes up “V-E +1” documents the burial of beaten and emaciated Holocaust victims found by Allied forces in the Nazi concentration camp at Falkenau, Czechoslovakia, as World War II ended in Europe. According to Samuel Fuller, who shot the footage while in the infantry unit that liberated the camp, the American commander in charge ordered leading civilians of the town who denied knowledge of the death camp to “prepare the bodies for a decent funeral,” parade them on wagons through the town, and bury them with dignity in the town’s cemetery.